An attorney for the man arrested for allegedly killing Mollie Tibbetts wants the media excluded from the case. Lawyer Allen Richards, wearing an American flag tie, argued during an initial court appearance Wednesday that media coverage is overwhelmingly weighed against his client Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who should be presumed innocent. Even the government at “the highest levels” has commented against the defendant.
The attorney didn’t name names, but both the White House and President Donald Trump have cited the Tibbetts murder as motivation to go after undocumented immigrants.
The loss of Mollie Tibbetts is a devastating reminder that we must urgently fix our broken immigration laws. pic.twitter.com/0Kaz0FQw36
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 22, 2018
Rivera is undocumented, authorities said.
Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver said the presence of some recording devices were usual in these kinds of cases. They supported an expended media request, but acknowledged another judge in the case could review the issue at later time.
Magistrate Diane Crookham-Johnson on Wednesday continued to allow cameras in the courtroom. She denied the defense motion for a private hearing, saying media coverage of the initial appearance wouldn’t violate Rivera’s right to a fair trial because he wasn’t going to be asked that day to make statements about the facts of the case.
On the defense’s request, Crookham also set a schedule for a district court to review a motion to implement a gag order on the case.
Cops said that Rivera murdered Tibbetts when she went out jogging July 18. She was reported missing on the 19th. According to the police affidavit, they found the defendant thanks to surveillance footage. It showed a suspicious Chevy Malibu in the area the victim is believed to have jogged, police said. Cops linked the vehicle to Rivera, who allegedly and freely admitted to the murder. He said he started running alongside Tibbetts, police said. She threatened to call 911, according to the affidavit. Rivera allegedly said this angered him, and when he gets angry, his memory blanks out. Next thing he remembered, he was driving with Tibbetts in the trunk, and he put her in a corn field, he allegedly told cops.
Investigators said they found the victim’s body in that corn field on Tuesday.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Tibbetts was last seen on July 19. In fact, she was seen on July 18, and was declared missing the day after.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Screengrab via KCCI]